French song: Sacré Charlemagne
This month’s song is Sacré Charlemagne by France Gall:
It is mostly believed that Charlemagne basically invented school in the middle ages, and then over a thousand years later France Gall wrote a song about it. Talk about a legacy!
“Qui a eu cette idée folle un jour d’inventer l’école?” (Who had that crazy idea one day of inventing school?) Gall sings in this iconic French classic, and dreams about how great life would be if school had never been invented, children wouldn’t have to spend their days on dictées and maths, so that every day would be a Thursday and we could all relax a bit…
Wait sorry did you say Thursday? Yes, in fact, Gall dreams of every day being a Thursday. In our anglophone world where our time off is only at the weekend, this does seem a little bizarre, but if you’ve been in France for a while now you might have realised that French children generally don’t go to school on Wednesdays, and earlier on in the mid 20th century, it was actually Thursday that was that long-awaited mid-week break (and it made sense, because they had Saturday school as well).
And while we’re talking about school, why not have a quick look at some of the grammar in this phrase?
Car sans lui dans notre vie il n’y’aurait que des jeudis
Let’s break it down: the phrase “il y a”, meaning “there is” is put into the conditional tense (indicating the idea of dreaming of what could happen in a conditional scenario, i.e. that pesky Charlemagne had never invented school), to become “il y aurait”, meaning “there would be”, and this is then negated with the construction “ne…que”, meaning “only”. Put it all together and you get the final result: “il n’y’aurait que des jeudis”, meaning “there would only be Thursdays”.